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County seeks one-stop site

The Lucas County commissioners all agree that it's long past time for a job training and placement center in the county, but finding the right site may prove elusive.

As part of welfare-to-work initiatives, “one-stop shops” have sprung up around the country to serve everyone from welfare recipients to white-collar professionals.

The commissioners have talked for three years about building their own one-stop, and Harry Barlos, president of the board and the concept's biggest backer, thinks the board needs to take action soon.

He said the board's two new members - Tina Skeldon Wozniak and Maggie Thurber - are committed to making it happen, but a consensus will need to be reached on the site.

“You probably will see three distinct opinions on a site and the size,” Mr. Barlos said.

One-stops are designed to bring the business community together with people who are looking for work. The idea is that the companies can convey what types of employees they're looking for and the workers receive the appropriate training through the county facility.

Last year, the Workforce Policy Board, a volunteer body comprised mostly of business leaders, recommended to the commissioners eight sites for a one-stop. The most talked about has been the former Riverside Hospital at 1600 Superior St. The campus has been mostly vacant since August, when Riverside's operations moved to Mercy's new St. Anne Mercy Hospital in West Toledo.

Some of the other sites identified by the policy board include the Marketplace at Miracle Mile, 5055 Jackman Road; the Swayne Field shopping center, 3054 Monroe St., and the former Macomber Vocational High School, 1501 Monroe St.

Mr. Barlos said even though Riverside has been the source of much discussion, he doesn't like it as a one-stop location because the North Toledo facility isn't accessible enough for a career center that has to serve the whole county. He said Riverside could be a good site for Lucas County Job and Family Services offices.

Ms. Wozniak said she has not ruled out Riverside because it's a large facility and it's close to I-280.

“If [Riverside] could house Job and Family Services and the one-stop, I would like to know what the cost of that is because of its central location,” she said. “I'd like to know more about the Riverside location.”

Ms. Thurber said in an e-mail message she wrote while on vacation that she has no preconceived ideas about where one-stop should be located. The factors she thinks are important include: “[E]asy access to both businesses and individuals - especially individuals who rely upon public transportation; [and] free, lighted parking at or extremely close to the site.”

She said the site must be attractive and professional looking with enough space for services and amenities.

Mr. Barlos said building a site is another option. He said he'd like to move into a 50,000 to 60,000-square-foot facility that can expand to at least 100,000 square feet.

Ms. Thurber said she hasn't decided how large she thinks the one-stop should be.

Melissa DeLisio, an assistant director of Ohio Job and Family Services, said whenever the county gets a full service one-stop operating, it shouldn't skimp on the size of the building.

Ms. DeLisio said counties often underestimate how much room they'll need, especially in resource rooms that supply job searching tools such as computers, fax machines, software for creating resumes, books, and magazines.

“If the one-stop operates well, [the resource room] becomes a very popular place,” Ms. DeLisio said. “And even small employers want to use the space.”

She said as one-stops develop around the country, businesses will come to expect to use them to find a trained workforce.

“In some areas, it's obvious they've become the front door to the community,” Ms. DeLisio said. “It's gone beyond the `I'm unemployed' or `I'm looking for my first job' [clients]. ... Different ones have become very successful and have become part of the community with apprentice programs and youth programs.”

Partnering with the county are organizations such as the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce, the University of Toledo, Owens Community College, Sylvania Adult Education, Toledo Public Schools, and Lucas County Job and Family Services.

Network, a Toledo worker assessment and placement firm, was awarded a 15-month $1 million contract in February to coordinate the operation.

Network operates a scaled-down version of the program at 5454 Airport Hwy. and 1810 Madison Ave., but a much larger center is envisioned by the people planning the one-stop shop.

Mark V'Soske, president of the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce, said the one-stop must be located in a place that is easily accessible with adequate parking. But more important than its physical characteristics is how successful it is at meeting its mission.

“One of the critical issues when businesses look here is what is the workforce base,” Mr. V'Soske said. “Part of what is successful in other communities, particularly down south, is that they have a system in place. Our hope is that we get to that point.”

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